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Guarantee Success By Tracking Your Habits with Joe’s Goals

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Habits form the basis for everything you do or will achieve.  Your personal goals contribute to fulfilling the vision you have for yourself, but at the core it’s your habits that make it possible to reach those goals.  Without forming new habits and replacing destructive behavior with positive habits, your goals will always remain distant – and without that consistent goal achievement, your vision might as well not exist.

The simplest way to think about this: your personal vision is your “ultimate goal”.  It’s an inspirational but achievable future state of mind and being that indirectly influences your decisions and guides you down your best path.  Your goals are interim milestones that contribute to fulfilling that vision – these are measurable and realistic targets that you use to base many of your actions.  And your habits are the small steps you take every single day that bring you ever closer to your goals.  This means they are the foundational element that everything builds on – your goals and your vision aren’t possible until you form the right habits.

Since many of us are visual, here’s a basic diagram showing how habits form the “bottom of the pyramid”. 

Vision/Goals/Habits Pyramid

Unfortunately, It’s not abnormal to get into a funk when it comes to your daily habits.  One day “off” can easily snowball into 5 days or 5 weeks.  It’s always easier to convince yourself that slacking off with a specific daily habit isn’t going to make a difference than it is to just do it.  It’s amazing how powerful our internal motivation for slacking can actually be!

I’ve found for myself and for many others that the best way to return from a funk is to put the following two things into place:

  1. Track your habits daily (not weekly or monthly)
  2. Let other people see your progress

For the past few years, I’ve been using a (free) site called Joe’s Goals to track daily habits that’s helped accomplish both #1 and #2.  It’s based on a strategy used by Benjamin Franklin who developed a list of his Thirteen Virtues at age 20, and used pen & paper to track his “progress” against these virtues every day.  According to the Art of Manliness:

Franklin carried around a small book of 13 charts. The charts consisted of a column for each day of the week and 13 rows marked with the first letter of his 13 virtues. Franklin evaluated himself at the end of each day. He placed a dot next to each virtue each had violated. The goal was to minimize the number of marks, thus indicating a “clean” life free of vice.

Franklin would especially focus on one virtue each week by placing that virtue at the top that week’s chart and including a “short precept” to explain its meaning. Thus, after 13 weeks he had moved through all 13 virtues and would then start the process over again.

This is how I use Joe’s Goals to track my daily habits:

Joe's Goals First, I look at my annual goals and determine which behaviors need to change or which specific daily activities I need to perform in order to achieve them.  While this does vary a bit year-to-year, most of the things on my daily list are things I have had on the list for years, and expect to have there for years to come. 

Once I have the list of trackable habits, I enter them into the site as “goals” (even though they’re actually habits).  While most are daily, some of them occur less frequently (such as posting to this blog) and for those, I just identify the days those occur.  From this point on, all that’s left is to actually start checking off the habits on a daily basis!

In order to remember to do this, I’ve done two pretty basic things to remind me to track these habits every day.  In my web browser I’ve added a link to Joe’s Goals to my Favorites Bar so that it’s front and center as soon as I open the browser (along with other sites I visit frequently).  To do this in Internet Explorer 8, you just need to make sure your Favorites Bar is shown by going to Tools –> Toolbars –> Favorites Bar (it’s shown by default).  Once it’s shown, you can add any site to it just by clicking the “Add to Favorites Bar” button:

(In Firefox 3, when you add a bookmark using the Bookmarks menu, just place the site in the “Bookmarks Toolbar” folder.)

The second thing I’ve done is to add a link to Joe’s Goals to my home screen on my iPhone.  This is straightforward as well – just navigate to in Safari and then click the “+” icon to add the page to your home screen.  Unfortunately there isn’t a better mobile experience, but given that the site is so basic, using the browser should work pretty well on most smartphones.

Then it’s just a matter of checking off the habits daily as I perform them, and making sure to hold myself accountable.  I use the “Current Chain” indicator as a motivator.  This number shows you how many days in a row you’ve checked off that habit (the chain).  I’m always surprised at how well this strategy works to keep me honest; I hate breaking the chain.

One other great feature of Joe’s Goals is the ability to share your badge with other people through your blog or website – this can help push you just a little harder, knowing that other people have access to your progress chart.  For years I had this chart on my personal blog.  There’s no better motivator than questions or encouragement from friends about how well you’re doing!

Check out Joe’s Goals (and no, I don’t know Joe or own the company!)  It’s a fun site full of potential – and it’s simple to use.  You can get up and running in less than a few minutes.  Tracking your habits every day can make a material difference in your ability to stick to them, and Joe’s Goals is one of the easiest ways to do it!

Written by Mike Torres

August 2nd, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Productivity,Tools

Tagged with , ,